Buffalo Provincialism and the Right to Marry


For all of western New York’s charms, things like taxation and political malefaction help to keep Buffalo down. It’s like every two steps forward are met with a step back. But the biggest thing holding us back is our own provincialism. It’s on display every time Carl Paladino denounces the “damn Asians” at UB, and every time any word is uttered on Buffalo hate radio.

As an aside, this past weekend I heard a few minutes’ worth of Rus Thompson and sitting Assemblyman (!) David DiPietro filling in for the execrable “financial guys” on WBEN, and they were whining about how right-wing talk radio is labeled “hate radio” because they disagree, adding that if a librul disagrees, it’s “tolerance”, but if it’s a conservative real ‘mrkn, it’s “hate”.

No. When a conservative respectfully disagrees and debates, that’s perfectly reasonable. When, however, a conservative spews gutter prejudice and hatred, that’s something different, and deserves to be called out for what it is –  hate.

Late last week, the Supreme Court struck down laws throughout the country that prohibited same-sex marriage. Gay couples are now free to formalize their relationships and marry in all 50 states. I have to imagine that the rapid acceptance of same-sex marriage in the US (we went from civil unions in Vermont in 1999 to marriage in Massachusetts in 2004 to universal applicability in 2015) had to do with our American sense of acceptance and justice, but also thanks to the very simple fact that allowing gay couples to marry did not, as opponents promised, lead to polygamy or incest or bestiality or a destruction of the institution of marriage. Perhaps having political figures who were caught in diaper play with prostitutes concern-troll about the sanctity of marriage was somewhat ineffective.

Here’s the last paragraph of the Supreme Court’s opinion:

No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.

Here is the statement of Bishop Gregory Hartmayer of the Savannah, GA diocese:

…every court decision is limited in what it can achieve; again this one is no exception. This decision does not change the biological differences between male and female human beings or the requirements for the generation of human life which still demands the participation of both. It does not change the Catholic Church’s teaching regarding the Sacrament of Matrimony, which beautifully joins a man and a woman in a loving union that is permanent in commitment and open to God’s blessings of precious new life.

The Catholic Church will always maintain that marriage is a vocation of a man and a woman to faithfully commit themselves, through sacred vows, to a life shared until death which pledges them to complement one another in their development as husband and wife and to be co-creators with God in the procreation of human life.

This decision of the Supreme Court is primarily a declaration of civil rights and not a redefinition of marriage as the Church teaches.

However, this judgment does not dispense either those who may approve or disapprove of this decision from the obligations of civility toward one another. Nor is it a license for more venomous language or vile behavior against those whose opinions differ from our own.

This Court action is a decision that confers a civil entitlement to some people who could not claim it before. It does not resolve the moral debate that preceded it and will most certainly continue in its wake.

The moral debate however must also include the way that we treat one another – especially those with whom we may disagree. We are all God’s children and are commanded to love one another. In many respects that moral question is at least as consequential and weighty as is the granting of this civil entitlement.

This decision has offered all of us an opportunity to continue the vitally important dialogue of human encounter especially between those of diametrically differing opinions regarding its outcome.

This decision has made my task as bishop more complex as I continue to uphold the teachings of my Church on the Sacrament of Matrimony and the equal transcendent dignity of every human person.

By contrast, here is what Bishop Malone of the Buffalo Diocese spat,

I am bitterly disappointed that the majority of justices of the U.S. Supreme Court has decided to overturn the definition of marriage, which has remained unchanged for more than two millennia.  Marriage is the lifelong exclusive union of one man and one woman, a font of unitive life and love as well as the foundation of a stable family and society.

Marriage is rooted in creation: God created marriage in the very same breath as He created the human person, and for the Catholic Church, that will not change.

It is my prayer that despite today’s developments, we will embrace anew the truth, beauty and goodness of marriage as it has always been and always will be, between a man and a woman.

Bishop Malone is free to believe whatever he wants, and he is free to exercise his religion however he wants, and however the Church demands. His exercise of religion does not need to intersect with the civil right of same-sex couples to marry, as Bishop Hartmayer seems to comprehend.

But “lifelong exclusive union of one man and one woman”? Does Bishop Malone refuse communion for “divorced” Catholics whose marriages have been neither “exclusive” nor “lifelong”? Does he allow married Catholics to be granted an “annulment” and re-marry in the church?  If Bishop Malone is permissive when it comes to divorce, which breaks a “lifelong” sacramental marriage, how does he reconcile that with his “bitter” disappointment when a gay couple seeks to solemnify their relationship? How sad and hypocritical.

If marriage was limited to procreation, then it would be illegal for older couples or sterile couples to marry. If it’s all about having kids, is the Bishop “bitterly disappointed” in childless couples?

In another twist reminiscent of the Hobby Lobby case, where the Supreme Court declared that being in business can be the same as practicing religion, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton issued an opinion allowing state officials to refuse to issue same-sex marriage licenses if it violates the clerk’s religious beliefs. There will likely be litigation over whether being an appointed or elected public official constitutes or intersects with the exercise of religion. It seems to stretch credulity to claim that executing the duties of a county clerk constitutes the exercise of religion.

Same-sex marriage has been the law in New York for a few years now, and if it has had any effect on the institution of marriage, it’s strengthened it. After all, look at all the same-sex couples who have sought the rights and responsibilities of legal marriage wherever legal.

Bishop Malone’s statement is as heartbreakingly narrow-minded as it is self-admittedly bitter. Bishop Hartmayer shows that, while the Catholic Church is unlikely ever to sanction same-sex marriage, it doesn’t have to heap bitter narrow-minded hatred on gay people and couples. Bishop Malone isn’t alone in doing so, but western New York has this weird, self-defeating habit of being tolerant of racism and hatred, but intolerant of love and acceptance.

Malone’s unnecessarily bitter rant, as juxtaposed against Bishop Hartmayer’s gentle statement, is just another bit of evidence of Buffalo’s own self-defeating intolerant provincialism. In short, this area won’t change until its people do.

Same-sex marriage doesn’t negatively affect anyone – least of all the Catholic Church. It’s been legal in New York State for several years with no controversy, so it’s silliness for the Bishop to so desperately condemn something that doesn’t affect him or the diocese in the least. Love over hate; acceptance over fear. That’s the way forward.

Turning Tide

This is the way homophobia ends Not with a bang but a whimper

It was just 14 short years ago that Vermont allowed civil unions. It was the first state to do anything of the sort, and it was groundbreaking. It wasn’t too long before the word “marriage” began replacing “civil unions”. Not unsurprisingly, none of this has led to a breakdown in traditional marriage. In 2013, the Supreme Court declared unconstitutional mid-90s federal meddling through the “Defense of Marriage Act”, leading to civil rights lawsuits throughout the country to allow same sex couples to marry. 

This has all happened, and public sentiment about same sex marriage has changed, much more quickly than anyone could have anticipated 14 years ago. Good job, America. 

In the News

Blue Sky Optimism

Blue Sky Optimism by ardvorak79

A few things worth reading in the Buffalo News:

Colin Dabkowski has quickly become a must-read every Sunday. His columns are direct, pithy, and insightful. This week, he weighs in on the city’s revival of its public arts program.

Although I’m not a huge fan of nostalgia, I think that Bruce Andriatch’s look back at his time at a defunct Olean-area restaurant and hotel is poignant and interesting.

The News’ endorsements for the upcoming school board election are notable for being exclusively Caucasian in a predominately African-American district. It would seem that there will be a lot of whitesplaining going on over the next year. But understand that when Paladino’s agenda is unsuccessful, he’s going to have to own that and he won’t have any “sisterhood” to blame anymore.

Buffalo’s own news historian guru, Steve Cichon, has begun curating the “BN Chronicles”, highlighting interesting stories from the News’ archives. Nestled between stories detailing America’s intervention in the Mexican Revolution, there’s this 1969 story about moving the Williamsville toll back past the Transit exit (never happened, we’re still arguing about it), a Buffalo Bill selling cars during the off-season, a story about fledgling gay rights in 1984, and a 1969 piece about “high speed rail”.

Sacred Heart Academy refused to print an alumna’s same-sex marriage announcement in its alumni periodical. The woman in charge of the magazine expressed that she was stuck between a rock and a hard place.

“I’m very sorry that we can’t publish your pictures and your good news in the Cordecho,” Sister Edith Wyss wrote. “We had a similar request several years ago and we did publish that announcement of the marriage of an alum to her partner. We did expect some negative response and we got some.

“However some readers of the Cordecho also contacted the Diocese of Buffalo. The bishop sent a diocesan official to meet with us at SHA to make sure that we understood what we had done,” Wyss wrote. “In their view, we were publicly supporting same-sex marriage. In our view, we were supporting our alumnae.”

The bottom line, according to Wyss, was that the Cordecho – published three times a year in winter, spring and fall – could not again print news or photos related to same-sex marriage.

One person posted a comment on my Facebook wall, indicating that Nardin has no problem announcing alums’ same-sex marriages, so all of this is a bit odd. But then, read what Buffalo’s bishop has to say:

“I am grateful that the leadership of Sacred Heart Academy has done the right thing and has not compromised its Catholic mission and values. While Sacred Heart is not a diocesan school, it is a Catholic school within the diocese, and I have responsibility for Catholic identity there and in every Catholic school, diocesan or not.”

Yet Pope Francis famously said, “[i]f someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?” While not a full-throated endorsement of same-sex marriage, it’s certainly more loving and tolerant than what Buffalo’s bishop has to say. 

Sacred Heart Academy reportedly has no problem cashing homosexual students’ and alumnae’s checks.

Mark Grisanti Campaigns in Downtown Tantrum

Photo by Jill Greenberg

In a few short years, State Senator Mark Grisanti has accomplished what few of his colleagues manage to do in a lifetime of “public service” – he has made a name for himself.  

Depending on whom you ask, he’s either a hero or an infamous traitor. In a way, that’s something for the senator to be proud of. After all, you don’t become an elected representative to blindly poll your constituents and see which way the wind is blowing.  On the contrary, while you should be responsive and available to constituents, you’re supposed to vote your conscience. It’s at the ballot box where your constituents get to tell you whether they agree. 

Grisanti’s change of heart on same-sex marriage is legendary. For supporters of civil rights, he is a hero for coming around on an issue of fairness and equality. For homophobes, he is a traitor because he had once promised not to support marriage. In the end, Grisanti got a boost, same sex marriage is no longer the huge controversy that it used to be, and he was on the right side of history. 

In the wake of the massacre of 20 first graders in Newtown, CT, Governor Cuomo decided to toughen New York’s laws regarding assault weapons and limiting the number of ammunition rounds that can be kept in a magazine. Some prominent recent shootings – Newtown included – saw gunmen carrying veritable arsenals around to do maximum harm in minimum time.  While Cuomo famously said you don’t need 15 bullets to kill a deer, you also don’t need 11 bullets to kill a 6 year-old

Opponents of the SAFE Act point to mental health treatment as the way to stem mass shootings. Gun control advocates likely believe that to be partly true, but expansion publicly funded mental health treatment and intervention don’t appear anywhere in any Republican manifesto of which I’m aware. So, while elected officials decide what they want to do about mental health services, it’s a good idea to make it as hard as possible for people who shouldn’t have weapons to get them. For this, Grisanti is now practically persona non grata

Before NY SAFE, New York already had among the most restrictive set of gun laws in the country. For instance, you’re not allowed to own a handgun unless you apply for – and receive – a permit to do so. New York still enforced the expired federal assault weapons ban, and NY SAFE strengthened it further.  Rifle magazines are never allowed to contain in excess of 7 rounds of ammunition. Semi-automatic rifles or shotguns with certain features (e.g., pistol grip, flash suppressor, bayonet lug, etc.) are banned, but if you owned one prior to the law’s passage, you  get to keep yours. A person’s weapons may be seized if there is probable cause to believe that the person is about to commit a crime or is mentally unstable. In New York State, the government has discretion in issuing pistol permits or conceal carry permits. In New York City, the rules are more restrictive than that. 

What part of “shall not be infringed” do you not understand? 

Well, the right of the people to bear arms is restricted, not infringed. It is up to the courts to determine whether a restriction is a 2nd Amendment infringement. Furthermore, each state’s laws differ on gun ownership and possession. Usually, conservatives cheer that sort of 10th Amendment state’s rights sort of thing, but perhaps that cheering is absent when the states choose policies with which the right does not agree. What came about? Right-wing freakout temper tantrums. 


It’s gotten so bad that it’s been rumored that Grisanti’s camp has had preliminary talks with the Erie County Democratic Committee about an endorsement. 

At last weekend’s Republican roundtable, tea party rabblerouser and former congressional candidate Mike Madigan apparently lit into Grisanti as “untrustworthy”. Grand Island Paladino shadow Rus Thompson (R-Tantrum) has threatened to primary Grisanti. Attorney and perennial candidate Kevin Stocker is already trying to reprise his 2012 loss.  At the GOP confab, Grisanti warned

…that the Republicans may lose their hold on the majority in the State Senate. Perhaps warning against a bruising GOP primary for his seat, he noted that four key Cuomo programs are targeted for early passage if the Dems gained control of the chamber: abortion of babies in the 9th month of pregnancy, taxpayer funded elections, fusion voting limitations, and the DREAM Act – free tuition for illegal aliens. Notably, the fusion changes Cuomo seeks could spell the end of the Conservative Party, the endorsement Grisanti has coveted and been denied. 

Oh, joy and rapture. An end to the perverse electoral fusion system that runs on graft, patronage, and confusion would be perhaps the best and most significant change that Governor Cuomo could ever bring about. The Conservative Party yanked its support from Grisanti over same-sex marriage, yet it has astonishingly continued to endorse other candidates who voted for it. Because “principles”. 

Given the hate and vitriol the small minority of ultra right-wing neofascists hurl at Grisanti, he’s not wrong to seek out a possible Democratic endorsement. These loons have labeled Grisanti a “RINO”, which is, to them, worse than being a Maoist, and they have set out to destroy him. They insist on conservative purity, which will go over great in a primary and lead to a catastrophic loss in the general election, because in November, people are generally in the middle. We’re not all gun-hugging omniphobes. 

Ask political choad Chuck Swanick how well he did running against Grisanti on an anti-gay platform in 2012. 

So it looks like it might fall to Canisius Professor and County Legislator Kevin Hardwick to primary Grisanti. Before he was a politician, my image of Hardwick was that he was not unlike Grisanti – an old-school, middle-of-the-road, northeastern Republican. Like a Bill Weld, conservative when it came to spending and taxes, and socially laissez-faire. But to challenge Grisanti, Hardwick is going to have to tack right, and I don’t know how that’s going to come across or how well it’ll do for him in November. 

Either way, chances are that Langworthy’s Republican committee isn’t going to be endorsing Grisanti, ever. They might endorse Hardwick if he runs. Time will tell if they get involved in a primary at all. Hardwick says he doesn’t like the NY SAFE Act, either, and that will be the centerpiece of any Republican challenge mounted against Grisanti. I think Grisanti has an opportunity to talk about the SAFE Act and why he voted the way he did. It could be as simple as pointing out just how much positive attention Governor Cuomo has given western New York since that vote. In an Albany run by Andrew Cuomo, Sheldon Silver, and Dean Skelos, you won’t be particularly effective by going against them. Just ask Mickey Kearns. (Changing the way Albany is run is a different matter, but no one in government makes a serious go of it for a variety of reasons.) Hardwick could end up in Albany, and then what? Is he going to get the SAFE Act repealed? Of course not. The whole thing is silliness. The entire landscape in that senate district is a massive fit of gun-hugging pique. 

The district that Mark Grisanti represents is a predominately Democratic one. 

So, to my mind, I wish Grisanti well. I want legislators like him in Albany and Washington – legislators who do what they think is right, even when it’s unpopular. I want legislators who take a controversial stand and then take the time and intellectual effort to back it up. We can do a lot worse than Mark Grisanti in Albany

Village People

Old guys in cowboy hats pledging an “uprising” over the “homosexual” “agenda” being shoved “down [their] throats”. 

“The people of Utah have rights, too, not just the homosexuals. The homosexuals are shoving their agenda down our throats,” Former Graham County, Ariz., Sheriff Richard Mack said at the meeting…

…”State sovereignty supercedes what this judge did,” Mack said. “The Governor needs to get some courage and grip.”

Cherilyn Eager, one of the event organizers, said that people need to speak out.

“We need people to stand up and speak out. We need to get noisy. We need some outrage,” she said. “It is about the sheriffs now coming out to protect the people.”

Mack and Eager asked meeting attendees to call their local representatives and ask them to urge clerks to stop issuing marriage licenses to gay couples.

“The way you take back freedom in America is one county at a time. The sheriffs need to defend the county clerks in saying, ‘No, we’re not going to issue marriage licenses to homosexuals,'” Mack said at the meeting.

This should end well. 


Chuck Swanick and Terribleness

Chuck Swanick skulked back into the private sector and out of government in the aftermath of the epic disaster that was the county fiscal meltdown of 2004 – 2005. He went back to his job with CSX, but saw an opportunity last year when State Senator Mark Grisanti voted in favor of same-sex marriage. 

The opportunity was that Swanick could be the conservative Catholic homophobic Democratic candidate and challenge Grisanti. He enlisted the help of local scheissmeister Steve Pigeon, fresh off of a cush State Senate job under his protege-turned-convict Pedro Espada. This means that every hack with a (D) after their name who has a beef with Len Lenihan’s Erie County Democratic Committee had been enlisted in the Pigeon/Swanick cause. 

Swanick, in expressing his disgust and opposition to same-sex marriage, quickly received the endorsement of execrable Ralph Lorigo-led jobs club known as the “Conservative Party” (which is famously inconsistent in its supposed automatic withholding of support for candidates who back same-sex marriage – see Kennedy, Tim). 

What’s so conservative about Swanick? His opponent, Mike Amodeo reminds us of that, as Chairperson of the Erie County Legislature, Swanick requested $4.78 Million for the Legislature’s 2004 budget. Included in Swanick’s bloated budget request were funds for 50 patronage employees. In addition, the Legislature stashed away another $2.7 Million for member items, more commonly known as pork projects. In comparison, the County Legislature’s 2012 budget is $2.96 Million, with no money allocated for member items. The Legislature staff has also since been right-sized to almost half the employees of the Swanick era

“On the eve of the Red/Green Budget Crisis, Chuck Swanick’s focus was on pork and patronage for his political fiefdom,” said his challenger, Amodeo. “Voters have no interest in returning to the days of wasteful spending.”

During Swanick’s tenure at the Legislature, Erie County’s cash reserves dwindled down to a paltry $4 Million. In addition, Swanick helped squander $250 Million of proceeds from the County’s tobacco settlement. Swanick also voted to allow Erie County to sell the Erie County Medical Center to itself, incurring another $200 Million long-term liability in exchange for an approximately $85 Million short-term benefit. New York State eventually determined that Erie County needed “adult supervision” and implemented a control board. 

“When Chuck Swanick left office in 2005, County finances were in complete shambles,” concluded Amodeo. “Chuck’s decision to campaign as a ‘fiscal conservative’ is an insult to every Erie County resident that had their library closed, services cut and taxes raised.”

Remember all that? You should. It’s what sparked a reasonably serious civic discussion about the future direction of the city and county, and started a local tax revolt of sorts as the county’s share of the sales tax inched up to avoid catastrophe. 

Swanick – a former Democrat turned Republican turned Democrat recently accepted two donations totaling $7,000 from the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), an anti-equality organization based out of Princeton, New Jersey. Since 2007, NOM has spent millions of dollars across the United States to restrict the rights of LGBT Americans, whom NOM Chairman John Eastman has referred to as ‘barbarians’.

Swanick, a 26 year career politician, also received a contribution of $16,800 from Sean Fieler of Princeton, New Jersey. Mr. Fieler, a major Republican donor and hedge fund manager, is chairman of the American Principles Project, whose founder is chairman emeritus of NOM.

 “I am deeply troubled to hear of Chuck Swanick’s taking of campaign funding from NOM, a hate group designated as such by the Southern Poverty Law Center,” said Bryan Ball, President of Stonewall Democrats of WNY. “Mr. Swanick’s blatant disregard for the equal rights and protections of every Western New York family he seeks to represent is an offensive assault on the right to freedom we value as Americans. The Democratic Party has always stood to aid the civil rights movement, and hate such as Mr. Swanick’s has no place in our great Party. I am proud of all who stand united against such divisiveness. Never should any part of our great Party support his actions.”

According to NOM’s own press release, the organization “intends to participate in legislative contests throughout the state as part of its $2 million commitment to make sure the voters of New York are able to vote to restore marriage in New York”.

Mike Amodeo supports same-sex marriage. He pledges to take on NYPA to ensure that western New York’s waterfronts continue to improve. He is against hydrofracking and the environmental risks that come from injecting bedrock with water and noxious chemicals to extract natural gas from it.  (Swanick essentially supports fracking). He supports term limits and changing Albany’s careerist culture. (Swanick is the opposite). 

Swanick isn’t a Democrat, and I don’t understand his return to politics, except by noting how he differs from the mainstream Democrat running against him. 

Happy Anniversary

Perhaps you saw this image floating around on the Facebooks this week.  Not only is same-sex marriage the right thing to do from a civil rights perspective, but it’s good for business. Treating fellow citizens like equals is really something of a no-brainer, and it’s important to note that the biggest homophobic, anti-SSM group, the “National Organization for Marriage” has decided that the best strategy is to pit African American voters against the LGBT community, and to go back to the “Obama radical” well, which has been dry for some time. 

I’ve come to the personal conclusion that one’s support of same-sex marriage is tantamount to a test of intelligence. A gay couple getting married has no bearing whatsoever on anyone else. It’s simple but true to say that if you don’t like same-sex marriage, don’t get one. Religious freedom and your own conscience do not, however, deserve to be codified as a prohibition on others’ behavior. 

Just because certain Jewish people keep Kosher, doesn’t mean every grocery store and restaurant has to follow those laws. 

And so it is, a year later, there’s a lawsuit pending brought by same-sex marriage opponents, and the execrable patronage mill called the “Conservative Party” has made repeal of the act a mission. 

As we celebrate the anniversary of this victory for civil rights and common sense, don’t forget the local electeds who would have denied this basic right to LGBT couples. 


Robin Schimminger, Jane Corwin, Dennis Gabryszak


Michael Ranzenhofer, Pat Gallivan, George Maziarz


When professional Facebooker Sarah Palin quit her last public employment as Governor of Alaska, it was because the media were intruding too much and too far into her personal space, and her family. 

So it’s somewhat ironic to find Ms. Palin’s single-mother abstinence advocate, Bristol, criticizing the Obama family for helping the President arrive at his acceptance of same sex marriage. 

“Is anyone really surprised by the fact that President Obama came out of the closet for gay marriage? What was most surprising is when he explained how his position (supposedly) “evolved,” by talking to his wife and daughters“, wrote Bristol

The single mother of one, who is estranged from her babydaddy, went on to write, 

While it’s great to listen to your kids’ ideas, there’s also a time when dads simply need to be dads.  In this case, it would’ve been helpful for him to explain to Malia and Sasha that while her friends parents are no doubt lovely people, that’s not a reason to change thousands of years of thinking about marriage.  Or that – as great as her friends may be – we know that in general kids do better growing up in a mother/father home.  Ideally, fathers help shape their kids’ worldview.

In this situation, it was the other way around.  I guess we can be glad that Malia and Sasha aren’t younger, or perhaps today’s press conference might have been about appointing Dora the Explorer as Attorney General because of her success in stopping Swiper the Fox.

Sometimes dads should lead their family in the right ways of thinking.  In this case, it would’ve been nice if the President would’ve been an actual leader and helped shape their thoughts instead of merely reflecting what many teenagers think after one too many episodes of Glee.

At what point does Tripp‘s dad get to be dad? The irony and cognitive dissonance here is so incredible – so palpable -as to be infuriatingly hilarious. It’s got everything, starting with the irony of a single mother lecturing the President – who is in a longtime monogomous marriage – about family values.

She lectures the Obamas about how to parent; she trivializes the societal and political import of same-sex marriage – which is critically important to many people, and does no one any harm; she clumsily throws up the idea that teenaged kids and their perhaps more progressive opinions about social issues are akin to a toddler recommending fictional cartoon characters to occupy cabinet posts; and finally, she passive-aggressively attacks Glee, which is a conservative bogeyman representing popular culture’s acceptance of LGBT people as valuable members of society. 

But what I want to know is something I Tweeted shortly after learning of this astonishing criticism by America’s Walking Contradiction: 

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/#!/buffalopundit/status/200644393131196416″]

Prez in Gay Flip Flop Flap

The headline is tongue-in-cheek. Last night, that’s what I predicted the New York Post’s headline would be. I had to put myself in the mindset of an alliterative Murdoch-paid wingnut headline author.  Instead, the Post went with a Travolta massage story

Yesterday, I wrote

Obama is caught between a rock and a hard place here. If he follows his head and comes out in support of same-sex marriage, he risks alienating a huge swath of the electorate – especially those in swing states. This is all about independent and undecided voters, and a vicious campaign based on a selective, phony reliance on obscure Biblical passages ensures that the homophobic drive to oppose same-sex marriage will continue to be strong, and risk Obama’s re-election. 

Unfortunately, this is the perfect opportunity for Obama to led on this particular issue. It’s a great chance for him to give one of those barn-burner, epic, historical speeches he’s known for where he appeals to people’s decency and common sense to try and change minds. 

Later that same day, President Obama said that he had come around to the opinion that, in his opinion, gay couples should be able to get married. This was a shift from his previous opinion – that civil unions would do the trick.  As we learned during the debate in New York over same sex marriage, civil unions don’t do the trick very much at all. 

I’ve seen lots of reaction over Obama’s change of opinion. Some Republicans accuse him of flip-flopping.  But that only works when the politician has changed his view to something safe.  I don’t think this is safe at all – I think it’s risky. This is not a poll-driven thing – this came up unexpectedly thanks to Joe Biden’s appearance on Meet the Press last weekend. The White House took only a few days to get its act together on it.  Mitt Romney reaffirmed his position that marriage can only be between a man and a woman, thus further alienating a particular population – something the Republican field (including Swiss-American Michele Bachmann) had been doing throughout this campaign. 

But it’s clear that Romney is a bit irked by the attention Obama’s getting. 


Some Republicans quip that Obama has become – at long last – a clone of Dick Cheney.  For Republicans, that would be valid were it true that Cheney’s view was the mainstream Republican position, but it isn’t.  But even though Obama’s statement in support of same sex marriage didn’t come right out and advocate for any change in legislation – state or federal – it’s a pretty big deal. And it’s quite risky. 

But one thing it might do for Obama is reignite youthful enthusiasm for his re-election. The acceptance of same sex marriage isn’t just geographical or philosophical – it’s generational. 

I don’t know whether Taibbi’s right about this race being a yawn-fest. At the very least, it’ll be fun to watch the Republicans begrudgingly fall behind one-size-fits-all Romney, and I’m sure the attacks on Obama will be as ridiculous as they will be ubiquitous. But Obama has many vulnerabilities, and it will be a test of Romney’s … “managerial” bona fides to see how he exploits that. 

Prop 8 Unconstitutional

Yesterday, the 9th Circuit (Federal) Court of Appeals ruled that California’s Proposition 8, which re-prohibited same sex marriage in that state, is unconstitutional.

What people forget is that a lawsuit filed in San Francisco led to the California Supreme Court ruling that the state’s prohibition against same-sex marriage was unconstitutional (based on the California state constitution).

Secondly, California’s highest court determined that reserving the term “marriage” only for heterosexual couples was violative of that state’s equal protection clause.

Two same-sex couples who were denied marriage licenses in California counties brought a federal action, a 12-day bench trial was held, and the Federal District Court ruled that Prop 8 was unconstitutional – that there was no rational basis or compelling state interest for the state to withhold the term “marriage” from same-sex couples.

Because Proposition 8 did nothing to substantively alter the underlying relationship or domestic partnerships into which California same-sex couples had committed themselves. Instead, it simply took from them the word “marriage”. But the court didn’t point this out to diminish the matter, but to highlight it. “A rose by any other name may smell as sweet, but to the couple desiring to enter into a committed lifelong relationship, a marriage by the name of ‘registered domestic partnership’ does not. The word ‘marriage’ is singular in connoting ‘ a harmony in living,’ ‘a bilateral loyalty,’ and ‘a coming together for better or for worse, hopefully enduring, and intimate to the degree of being sacred.'”, citing the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in 1965’s Griswold v. Connecticut, which declared the existence of a federal right to privacy and struck down prohibitions against contraception.

In the end, the court found that constitutional jurisprudence does not permit the people to “enact laws” that “single out a certain class of citizens for disfavored legal status” thus raising “the inevitable inference that the disadvantage imposed is born of animosity toward the class of persons affected.” The purpose of such a law isn’t to promote some “legitimate legislative end”, but “to make them unequal to everyone else.”

In order for a law like Prop 8 to stand, with all of its “meaningful harm to gays and lesbians”, some “legitimate state interest” must justify it. More specifically, “it” isn’t whether the legal state extant post-Prop 8 was constitutional or not – the question is whether the change that Proposition 8 made in the law could be justified, in and of itself.

The U.S. Supreme Court had decided cases going back to the 60s forbidding states from a “targeted exclusion of a group of citizens from a right or benefit that they had enjoyed on equal terms with all other citizens.” A right conveyed cannot later be withdrawn without a legitimate state justification.

The court analyzed the purported “justifications” for Prop 8 and found them illegitimate. For instance, Prop 8 proponents claimed that only heterosexual marriage was good for childrearing, but the law didn’t substantively affect same-sex couples’ right to have or adopt children. The court also went out of its way to destroy the Prop 8 proponents’ arguments that taking away the use of the term “marriage” from same-sex couples will promote responsible procreation by heterosexual couples.

The court found that Prop 8 existed as “nothing more or less than a judgment about the worth and dignity of gays and lesbians as a class.” Indeed, the court found that Prop 8 was born and promoted from a fundamental disapproval of homosexuals and from homophobia – that same-sex couples are inferior, and that their relationships are undesirable. The 9th Circuit concluded saying that the people of California violated the Equal Protection Clause by using their initiative power to target a minority group and illegitimately withdrawing a right that they possessed.

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